It feels like the 2015 film year hasn’t quite ended yet, with the glut of prestige films still making their way into theaters and the awards-season just now entering full swing. But January always feels like a bit of a film hangover: We’re still sorting through season-ending high of the year that was and dealing with the harsh reality of the year in front of us. After all, there’s no worse month for moviegoing than any given January. So, let’s look ahead and choose a film from each month, January included, whose release date you should circle on your calendar now, and consider a few others that might be worth your time each month.
The Boy (January 22)
Let’s just take January for what it is: a season of trash. But it can also be a season of enjoyable trash. There’s an excellent chance that The Boy, a film by William Brent Bell — the director of the found-footage hit The Devil Inside (another January release) — will be awful. But it might also be the right kind of awful. The Walking Dead‘s Lauren Cohan stars as an American nanny given an unusual charge: A life-sized porcelain doll whose care instructions are more elaborate than those attached to gremlins. From the looks of the trailer, she wastes no time breaking them. Chaos naturally ensues.
Also of note: Michael Bay takes on Benghazi with 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. Robert De Niro takes on elderly perversion in Dirty Grandpa. A panda takes on kung fu in Kung Fu Panda 3.
Hail Caesar! (February 5)
It’s a new movie from the Coen brothers, which means it comes into February as a lock for the month’s most-anticipated film. Set in Hollywood’s golden age, the comedy stars Josh Brolin as a studio fixer and George Clooney as a star who gets kidnapped by a mysterious organization. Also on hand: Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton (as Hedda Hopper), Jonah Hill, and Channing Tatum. Some are Coen vets. Others just seem like they should have been starring in Coen brothers movies for years. Feb. 5 can’t arrive fast enough.
Also of note: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies brings the literary mash-up, the hot trend of a half-decade ago, to the big screen. The Ryan Reynolds-starring Deadpool will attempt to find a winning mix of superheroic ultraviolence and wisecracks. Alison Brie, Rebel Wilson and others co-star in How to Be Single. Zoolander returns in Zoolander 2. Jesse Owens gets a biopic with Race while a less-revered Olympic star gets one with Eddie the Eagle. The reportedly terrifying The Witch sees release as does the already-divisive (and insane-looking) Gods of Egypt.
Zootopia (March 4)
The latest Disney animated film casts Jason Bateman as a con artist fox and Ginnifer Goodwin as the uptight rabbit police officer who has to team up with him to solve a crime in a world populated by anthropomorphic animals. That’s a combination of smart casting and a great premise and the early footage from the film has been hilarious, particularly a trailer involving a trip to a DMV run by sloths that takes a potentially hack-y gag and squeezes hilarity out of it anyway.
Also of note: London Has Fallen moves the action of the grim action film Olympus Has Fallen to, you guessed it, London. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot stars Tina Fey as a war correspondent in a film based on the memoirs of reporter Kim Barker. Knight of Cups is the latest from Terrence Malick and stars Christian Bale as a screenwriter. Batman (not played by Christian Bale) fights Superman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Michael Showalter directs Sally Field in the promising-looking Hello, My Name Is Doris. The imaginatively titled My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 gives the indie hit a belated sequel. The Brothers Grimsby sets Sasha Baron Cohen loose in a spy-movie send-up. Also, there’s another Divergent movie.
Keanu (April 22)
Honestly, April looks kind of dicey, and maybe it’s not smart to put our money behind a movie about which we know very little beyond this description in Variety: “The story follows a group of friends posing as drug dealers in order to retrieve a stolen feline.” But, hold on a minute: Said friends include Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key, who also produced the film. Peele serves as co-writer and the cast includes Will Forte and Method Man. Sold. We don’t even need to know why it’s called Keanu.
Also of note: Sequels, sequels, sequels: April’s releases include Rings (another entry in the Ring series), Barbershop: The Next Cut (another entry in the Barbershop series), Amityville: The Awakening (a new Amityville film starring Jennifer Jason Leigh (?!), and The Huntsman: Winter’s War, a Snow White-free follow-up to Snow White and the Huntsman. Also arriving: Jon Favreau’s adaptation of The Jungle Book, the video game adaptation Ratchet and Clank, and something called Nine Lives directed by Barry Sonnenfeld and starring Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Garner, and Christopher Walken. Here is its description on the IMDb: “A stuffy businessman finds himself trapped inside the body of his family’s cat.”
The Nice Guys (May 20)
It’s been a hot minute since we’ve seen Ryan Gosling in a role that took full advantage of his scruffy charisma. After a couple of years spent in the dour-indie wilds with the grim, polarizing Only God Forgives and his directorial debut, the equally grim and self-consciously arty Lost River, Gosling reminded audiences of why they fell in love in the first place with a clutch role in The Big Short‘s ensemble last month. In May, he’ll team with Russell Crowe — another heavyweight talent in serious need of a good showing — for Shane Black’s ultra-violent buddy-cop period piece. The pair will beat a bloody swath through ’70s L.A., and then in July, Gosling will reappear with a spring in his step and a tune on his tongue for Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash follow-up, the musical La La Land.
Also of note: Marvel trots out its latest showhorse Captain America: Civil War (or, as it’s called in textbooks south of the Mason-Dixon line, Captain America: The War of Iron Man’s Aggression). Matthew McConaughey stars in a Civil War picture of a more historically-rooted sort, Free State of Jones. Zach Braff eases into the director’s chair once more for the heist picture remake Going in Style. Oliver Stone keeps it topical with his Joseph Gordon-Levitt-fronted Edward Snowden biopic Snowden. Your children will force you to bring them to the Angry Birds movie, and you will oblige them, because you know that if you don’t, it is almost certainly coming out in therapy 15 years down the line. A trio of sequels, some more anticipated than others, will close out the month; X-Men: Apocalypse drags Oscar Isaac into the Marvel universe, Neighbors 2 drags Chloe Grace-Moretz into the Neighbors universe, and Through the Looking Glass drags Sacha Baron Cohen back into the Tim Burton universe following his appearance in Sweeney Todd.
Conner4Real (June 3)
As comedy troupe The Lonely Island, Akiva Schaffer, Andy Samberg, and Jorma Taccone essentially commodified overnight virality for Saturday Night Live. But the group has had trouble translating that bite-sized TV success to the full-meal format of the feature film. Both Hot Rod and MacGruber (the latter of which Taccone wrote and directed with Will Forte) were deliriously funny, but found no love from audiences or critics, instead slowly amassing a cult of fervent fans over a span of years. Hopefully the group’s latest effort, a comedy about a failed rapper (Samberg) attempting to reform his boy band that satirizes cotton-candy concert docs like Justin Bieber: Never Say Never and Katy Perry: Part of Me, will fare a little bit better. At the very least, we can expect one or two “cool beans“-caliber moments.
Also of note: There’s not a whole lot slated for June, but hey, someone will probably announce something neat between now and then! Films improbably receiving sequel treatments in June include Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (the Michael Bay one from 2014), Independence Day, magician-action flick Now You See Me, The Conjuring, and Finding Nemo. The massively popular computer fantasy game Warcraft finally moves from the well-air-conditioned suburban basement to the neighborhood cineplex, and The Rock matches wits with Kevin Hart in Central Intelligence.
Ghostbusters (July 15)
Whether or not Paul Feig’s reboot of the classic ’80s sci-fi comedy will be officially titled Ghostbustin’ Gals has yet to be seen, no matter how hard we may wish it, but what we do know is that the all-female cast will put a progressive new spin on the beloved property. With a cast cobbled together from SNL stalwarts Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Kristen Wiig and would-be SNL stalwart Melissa McCarthy (she auditioned, it counts!), the picture is practically guaranteed to be hilarious. Still, we continue to hold out hope that its box-office receipts will match its pedigree, and the ridiculous debate over whether a woman-fronted studio picture can drive ticket sales will be sucked into the ecto-pack once and for all, never to be heard from again.
Also of note: Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone strike up a nostalgia-laced tune in Whiplash director Damien Chazelle’s romantic musical La La Land. Steven Spielberg reaches deep back into your childhood for his adaptation of the Roald Dahl fantasy chapter book The BFG. Audiences can find refuge from the heat of summer’s dog days with new installments in the Star Trek reboot franchise, the Bourne series, the Ice Age movies, and The Purge horror flicks. Anna Kendrick, Adam DeVine, Zac Efron, and Aubrey Plaza unite for Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, which, with a cast like that, could be about how they make phone books for all we care.
Suicide Squad (August 5)
Perhaps you’ve heard that there’s a new DC movie on the docket in 2016, about a team of reformed-ish supervillains who agree to carry out black ops missions for the government in exchange for commuted sentences. Perhaps you’ve heard that Jared Leto will star in this movie as The Joker, a role so disturbing, so core-rattlingly intense that it nearly drove him to the point of insanity. Perhaps you’ve also heard that this movie, which will reportedly evince grit and darkness both literally in its overall look, as well as figuratively through its dialogue, is gunning for a PG-13 rating. This all sounds rather silly, but if the Suicide Squad buzz machine’s only objective was to capture the public’s interest without earning its respect, then kudos. Who knows how this David Ayer-directed thing will turn out?
Also of note: The swords-and-sandals epic of yesteryear Ben-Hur gets the high-gloss remake treatment, as does animation/live-action hybrid Pete’s Dragon. Jonah Hill and Miles Teller star in Arms and the Dudes, a stranger-than-fiction account of two bros who only realized how far in over their heads they were after they agreed to a contract to supply the U.S. military with weapons. Animation studio Laika, now three for three with Coraline, ParaNorman, and The Boxtrolls, will attempt another home run with Kubo and the Two Strings. Christina Applegate, Mila Kunis, and Kristen Bell will inspire some tongue-clicks of disapproval in Bad Moms. And then there’s the adult-oriented animated comedy Sausage Fest, which sounds like Foodfight! but with a much better cast (Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, etc.), and a soul.
Sully (September 6)
Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger inspired a nation when he emergency-landed a malfunctioning airliner in New York’s Hudson River with zero casualties, narrowly avoiding major tragedy. His all-American tale of heroism and grace under pressure will be immortalized courtesy of two of our nation’s most trusted names in film: Clint Eastwood has taken the reins on this retelling of U.S. Airways Flight 1549, and none other than Tom Hanks has agreed to portray Sully himself. Esteemed actors Laura Linney and Aaron Eckhart will support Hanks in the cast, as will Jerry Ferrara, who was Turtle on Entourage. Will Eastwood accept Sully as the squeaky-clean poster boy that we’ve all made him out to be, or will he find some way of complicating the man’s heroism and locate compelling drama therein? Smart money’s on that second one.
Also of note: Another ripped-from-the-headlines-a-few-years-later story comes to theaters in September, with Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg retelling the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Patient Zero comes to theaters to satisfy moviegoers who liked Side Effects, but wished it was scarier. After all these years, Bridget Jones continues her search for love and happiness in Bridget Jones’s Baby, which is not, I repeat, not a sequel to Rosemary’s Baby. Hit-or-miss filmmaker Gore Verbinski tries his hand at horror with A Cure for Wellness. The animated comedy Storks sits audiences down and gently, calmly explains to them where babies come from. The long-delayed crime comedy Masterminds finally receives a release, and the timeless Western The Magnificent Seven will be made timely with a remake of its own.
Gambit (October 7)
With his movie-star screen presence, rock-like abs, and friendly-dumb charisma, it’s frankly shocking that Channing Tatum has lasted this long without taking on a superhero role. The gross injustice will be righted come October, if the movie gods be merciful. Production on the Tatum-centered X-Men spin-off has stalled, though Fox remains attached to their release date. Tatum will portray Remy LeBeau, a bayou boy just like himself, though this swamp-dweller took his talents all the way to New Orleans before beginning an illustrious career as one of Charles Xavier’s mutant crimefighters. Aside from Taters’ involvement, little is known about this gestating project, but if the studio wants to hit this target date, that will most likely change soon.
Also of note: In The Accountant, Ben Affleck lends the traditionally nebbishy profession a much-needed edge by moonlighting as a secret agent. Ron Howard gets back in the Da Vinci Code business with Inferno, and Tom Cruise will go back to Jack Reacher in Jack Reacher: Never Go Back. Emily Blunt headlines The Girl on the Train, a hotly anticipated adaptation of Paula Hawkins’ psychothriller. Kevin Hart brings his stand-up off of the stage and into the cineplex with Kevin Hart: What Now?
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (November 11)
After capturing nature’s iridescent beauty and waltzing away with an armful of Oscars for 2012’s Life of Pi, director Ang Lee took a breath. A long, four-year breath, but a breath that will hopefully result in what sounds like an intriguing riff on the war picture. Marketed as a comedy-drama, Lee’s film stars newcomer Joe Alwyn as the title soldier, an Iraq veteran who returns home following a harrowing battle in order to be paraded around the country as a symbol of the war’s nobility. The film culminates in a scheduled appearance during halftime at a Dallas Cowboys game, and while what exactly makes that showing so climactic is currently unclear, the cast (which includes Vin Diesel, Kristen Stewart, and Steve Martin) has already raised a few eyebrows. Like The Best Years of Our Lives, Lee’s newest sounds like a war film without the war, instead lamenting the broken lives it leaves behind.
Also of note: Marvel charges right through Phase Three with the mystical, purportedly psychedelic Doctor Strange, while the Harry Potter universe returns in full force with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. For a sequel with a slightly lower profile, try Bad Santa 2, the follow-up to Terry Zwigoff’s black comedy that we never knew we needed. Disney travels to the South Pacific for the lush-looking Moana. James Franco and Bryan Cranston face off in the comedy Why Him?, while Owen Wilson and Ed Helms butt heads in the similarly-minded Bastards. (Not to be confused with the Claire Denis film of the same name, a mix-up that will probably be extremely common come November.) House of Flying Daggers director Zhang Yimou casts another spell over domestic audiences with the sweeping historical epic The Great Wall.
Assassin’s Creed (December 21)
After having suitably proven themselves by tackling the Bard with last month’s Macbeth, director Justin Kurzel along with stars Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard will move onto the real challenge: a video game movie. Diverging from the mythos laid down in the source material, Fassbender does double duty as modern-day Callum Lynch and Aguilar, his assassin ancestor from 15th-century Spain. He’ll have to commune with himself to gain the skills necessary to beat back the Templars, the sworn enemies of the Assassins because time immemorial. Michael K. Williams, Jeremy Irons, and Brendan Gleeson will round out the cast, along with Cotillard, whose role has yet to be specified. Imagine it: a world where video game movies are good. It may seem fanciful now, but by year’s end, it could be our reality.
Also of note: Matthew McConaughey and Scarlett Johansson voice not just talking animals, but singing animals in the upcoming animated musical-comedy Sing. Staying on the throw-two-bankable-stars-at-a-concept-and-see-what-happens beat, Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt stay in the sci-fi romance Passengers, helmed by Morten Tyldum of The Imitation Game fame. A remake for Jumanji, a sequel for The Strangers, and a spin-off for Star Wars (in the form of Rogue One) fill out the month, though the real story here is that apparently Disney has somehow made a movie out of Chicken Soup for the Soul.